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Step Right Up! Get Your Governor!

Although Terry McAuliffe is the front-runner, the Washington Post’s editorial board endorsed Creigh Deeds in Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. There’s not much difference on the issues between them or the third candidate, Brian Moran, but McAuliffe’s personality is, well, distinctive. The Post reports:

There is a certain amount of showmanship in any political race, but those who know McAuliffe best describe a man who was a barker before the political tents ever went up in Virginia. In his personal and professional life, McAuliffe has always talked louder, moved quicker and thought bigger than most of his peers. . . McAuliffe’s personality could work against him if it comes off as too loud, too big, too much. He once wrestled an alligator for a political donation. Another time, he stopped off to give a speech while taking his wife and newborn child home from the hospital.

The rest of the story leaves one exhausted and bemused, not unlike McAuliffe himself would.

But none of this may matter to Virginia primary voters, and only about 4% of them are expected to turn out anyway. Still,  one can’t underestimate how different McAuliffe is from the last two Democratic governors, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, who were low-key, business-like and, yes, a little dull. It’s not just that McAuliffe, unlike his predecessors, is new to Virginia state politics; it is that he’s from some other political universe where brashness and boastful exaggeration are considered positive attributes.

How McAuliffe will wear on voters in a long general election is anyone’s guess. But for now he’s hoping Virginia, known for its non-partisan and cordial style of politics, is ready for a change. It’s not every day that Virginia gets, as the Post describes him, a “carnival barker” who wants to be governor.


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